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Sabbath Afternoon' is a key transitional work between Wolmarks' earlier Rembrandtesque style and his ove towards modernism, revealing a new handling of paint and touches of a lighter palette . Familiar with the work of Samuel Hirszenberg’s from his time in Poland, he undoubtedly references the older artist’s 'Sabbath Rest' (1894, Ben Uri Collection) in his own Sabbath painting, but transposes his subjects to a typical East End setting. To underline their Orthodoxy, Wolmark shows his couple absorbed in their Sabbath studies, including important details of Jewish religious observance, such as the Bessamim (ceremonial spice tower) on the table. Yet the focus has shifted from interior to exterior and from domestic to industrial, as the sun setting over the city’s smoking chimneys is glimpsed through the window behind. It is not the interior or its inhabitants but the brilliantly lit, urban townscape beyond which provides the focus for the composition, identifying Wolmark with a modernist motif typical of his Camden Town contemporaries.

A pioneer as a painter of both the Jewish community in London’s East End and as an early modernist, Wolmark has been called the ‘father’ of the Whitechapel Boys. He was the only artist to be included in both the Whitechapel Art Gallery’s 1906 'Jewish Art and Antiquities Exhibition' and in David Bomberg and Jacob Epstein’s ‘Jewish Section’ at the 1914 exhibition 'Twentieth-Century Art: A Review of Modern Movements'. Closely associated with the Ben Uri for many years: he was Vice-President from 1923–56, and in 1925, together with Solomon J Solomon, presided over the official opening of the Ben Uri’s first gallery in Great Russell Street.

Details

  • Title: Sabbath Afternoon
  • Creator: Alfred Wolmark
  • Date Created: 1909/1910
  • Physical Dimensions: 77.5 x 77.5 cm
  • Type: painting
  • Rights: © Alfred Wolmark estate
  • Medium: oil on canvas
  • Art Form: painting
  • Support: canvas

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